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Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR), avoiding a government shutdown on September 30th. This stop-gap measure keeps agencies running at 2020 funding levels through the upcoming presidential election. The lame-duck Congress will need to resume budget negotiations after the election. Continuing resolutions have become the new normal, as Congress has consistently failed to pass a full budget by the fiscal year deadline. In fact, Congress has enacted one or more CRs in all but three of the last 45 fiscal years (FY1977-FY2021).
Operating under a CR is not ideal. Non-profits and other government-funded organizations who rely on State and Federal funding are challenged in this fiscal environment because of the resulting delays in payments and necessary adjustments later in the fiscal year.
Last month, House Democrats issued an updated version of the HEROES Act relief bill to address issues that came up since the last one was passed. At $2.2 trillion dollars, this bill includes funding for Older Americans Act programs, including $500 million for Nutrition. President Trump has waffled on whether or not he will sign any relief bill before the election.
The Illinois State legislature has only met for three days since the pandemic started in mid-March. Because they have no protocol for remote voting, the only legislative activity has been virtual Senate committee hearings. These public meetings take place live and include both Senate and House members.
In the most recent joint committee session, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) drew attention to national and statewide health disparities between Black and White Americans. The fact that Black Illinoisans are 3.4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites, reveals and exacerbates previously existing racial health disparities. This raises concerns for older adult minority populations, especially those who are immunocompromised or who have other underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.
The ILBC intends to present legislation addressing the racial and ethnic disparities during the veto session that is scheduled for Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3.
Long-Term Care Crisis
The pandemic has also highlighted problems that have existed in long-term care facilities well before the crisis. Staffing shortages and lack of Personal Protective Equipment became more problematic in the wake of the pandemic. At the same time, many facilities have been closed to visitors since March.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidance clarifying that, if it is safe for facilities to do outdoor visits, they need to do that. The Ombudsman Project is working to ensure that facilities do, to the extent that it is safe, allow residents to have social interaction – to get outside and to have physically distanced social activities.
Facilities are required to self-report any COVID cases and are expected to create their own policies and carry out their own testing. Facilities are struggling to balance residents’ safety against the very real dangers of social isolation.
Data shows that older adults are the most likely age cohort to vote in any election. However, the upcoming 2020 election has created new challenges for this group as they avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Read more about the many options in Illinois for voting safely here.
Ballot Amendment (Fair or Progressive Tax)
There is a proposed amendment to the Illinois constitution on the ballot this year. The amendment would grant the State authority to impose higher income tax rates on higher income levels, which is how the federal government and a majority of other states do it.
Currently, the state constitution mandates that income tax be levied at a flat rate across all incomes. Voting ‘yes’ to the amendment means supporting changing to a graduated income tax, and voting ‘no’ means opposing a graduated income tax.
What exactly is a graduated income tax? Also referred to as a progressive tax, it is a tax structure that imposes varied tax rates depending on income. Essentially, under this kind of system, the more you make, the more you pay.
In closing, wherever you stand on these issues, be sure to vote and make your voice heard on November 3rd.
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